WO2011159349A1 - Hearing aid system - Google Patents

Hearing aid system Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2011159349A1
WO2011159349A1 PCT/US2011/001077 US2011001077W WO2011159349A1 WO 2011159349 A1 WO2011159349 A1 WO 2011159349A1 US 2011001077 W US2011001077 W US 2011001077W WO 2011159349 A1 WO2011159349 A1 WO 2011159349A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
hearing aid
user
configured
ear
signal
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2011/001077
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Russell J. Apfel
Frederick C. Neumeyer
Samir Ibrahim
John Michael Page Knox
Original Assignee
Audiotoniq, Inc.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US35467510P priority Critical
Priority to US61/354,675 priority
Priority to US36221110P priority
Priority to US61/362,211 priority
Priority to US61/388,349 priority
Priority to US38834910P priority
Priority to US41668810P priority
Priority to US61/416,688 priority
Priority to US13/007,568 priority patent/US8761421B2/en
Priority to US13/007,568 priority
Application filed by Audiotoniq, Inc. filed Critical Audiotoniq, Inc.
Publication of WO2011159349A1 publication Critical patent/WO2011159349A1/en

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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/43Electronic input selection or mixing based on input signal analysis, e.g. mixing or selection between microphone and telecoil or between microphones with different directivity characteristics
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F3/00Input arrangements for transferring data to be processed into a form capable of being handled by the computer; Output arrangements for transferring data from processing unit to output unit, e.g. interface arrangements
    • G06F3/16Sound input; Sound output
    • G06F3/165Management of the audio stream, e.g. setting of volume, audio stream path
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/30Monitoring or testing of hearing aids, e.g. functioning, settings, battery power
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/55Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception using an external connection, either wireless or wired
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/55Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception using an external connection, either wireless or wired
    • H04R25/552Binaural
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/55Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception using an external connection, either wireless or wired
    • H04R25/556External connectors, e.g. plugs or modules
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2225/00Details of deaf aids covered by H04R25/00, not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2225/31Aspects of the use of accumulators in hearing aids, e.g. rechargeable batteries or fuel cells
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2225/00Details of deaf aids covered by H04R25/00, not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2225/33Aspects relating to adaptation of the battery voltage, e.g. its regulation, increase or decrease
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2225/00Details of deaf aids covered by H04R25/00, not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2225/39Aspects relating to automatic logging of sound environment parameters and the performance of the hearing aid during use, e.g. histogram logging, or of user selected programs or settings in the hearing aid, e.g. usage logging
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2225/00Details of deaf aids covered by H04R25/00, not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2225/41Detection or adaptation of hearing aid parameters or programs to listening situation, e.g. pub, forest
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2225/00Details of deaf aids covered by H04R25/00, not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2225/55Communication between hearing aids and external devices via a network for data exchange
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2225/00Details of deaf aids covered by H04R25/00, not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2225/61Aspects relating to mechanical or electronic switches or control elements, e.g. functioning
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2420/00Details of connection covered by H04R, not provided for in its groups
    • H04R2420/09Applications of special connectors, e.g. USB, XLR, in loudspeakers, microphones or headphones
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2430/00Signal processing covered by H04R, not provided for in its groups
    • H04R2430/01Aspects of volume control, not necessarily automatic, in sound systems
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2460/00Details of hearing devices, i.e. of ear- or headphones covered by H04R1/10 or H04R5/033 but not provided for in any of their subgroups, or of hearing aids covered by H04R25/00 but not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2460/03Aspects of the reduction of energy consumption in hearing devices
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R2460/00Details of hearing devices, i.e. of ear- or headphones covered by H04R1/10 or H04R5/033 but not provided for in any of their subgroups, or of hearing aids covered by H04R25/00 but not provided for in any of its subgroups
    • H04R2460/07Use of position data from wide-area or local-area positioning systems in hearing devices, e.g. program or information selection
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/30Monitoring or testing of hearing aids, e.g. functioning, settings, battery power
    • H04R25/305Self-monitoring or self-testing
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/45Prevention of acoustic reaction, i.e. acoustic oscillatory feedback
    • H04R25/453Prevention of acoustic reaction, i.e. acoustic oscillatory feedback electronically
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/50Customised settings for obtaining desired overall acoustical characteristics
    • H04R25/505Customised settings for obtaining desired overall acoustical characteristics using digital signal processing
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/55Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception using an external connection, either wireless or wired
    • H04R25/554Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception using an external connection, either wireless or wired using a wireless connection, e.g. between microphone and amplifier or using Tcoils
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/60Mounting or interconnection of hearing aid parts, e.g. inside tips, housings or to ossicles
    • H04R25/602Mounting or interconnection of hearing aid parts, e.g. inside tips, housings or to ossicles of batteries
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04RLOUDSPEAKERS, MICROPHONES, GRAMOPHONE PICK-UPS OR LIKE ACOUSTIC ELECTROMECHANICAL TRANSDUCERS; DEAF-AID SETS; PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEMS
    • H04R25/00Deaf-aid sets, i.e. electro-acoustic or electro-mechanical hearing aids; Electric tinnitus maskers providing an auditory perception
    • H04R25/70Adaptation of deaf aid to hearing loss, e.g. initial electronic fitting

Abstract

A hearing aid is including a casing configured to fit behind either of the user. The casing including a proximity sensor associated with the casing and configured to generate a signal proportional to the proximity of the casing to an object. The hearing aid includes a controller configured to select an operational mode from a plurality of operating modes in response to receiving the signal.

Description

HEARING AID SYSTEM

Russell J. Apfel

Frederick C. Neumeyer

Samir Ibrahim

John Michael Page Knox

FIELD

[0001] This disclosure relates generally to hearing aids, and more particularly to hearing aids that are easy and safe to operate by the user.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Hearing deficiencies can range from partial to complete hearing loss. Often, an individual's hearing ability varies across the range of audible sound frequencies, and many individuals have hearing impairment with respect to only select acoustic frequencies. For example, an individual's hearing loss may be greater at higher frequencies than at lower frequencies.

[0003] Hearing aids have been developed to alleviate the effects of hearing losses in individuals. Conventionally, hearing aids range from ear pieces configured to amplify sounds to more sophisticated hearing aid devices that are configurable by a hearing specialist. In instances where the individual's hearing loss varies across frequencies, such hearing aids can be tuned by an audiologist, for example, to compensate for the unique variations of the individual's hearing loss. In an example, a hearing health professional takes measurements using calibrated and specialized equipment to assess an individual's hearing capabilities in a variety of sound environments, and then programs the hearing aid profiles based on the calibrated measurements to enhance the performance of the hearing aid in a specific acoustic environment, such as in a crowd, outdoors, or in a quiet room. High-end hearing aids may include several (often between two and six) different hearing aid profiles, often including a normal profile and a phone profile as two of the hearing aid profiles. However, even six profiles cannot cover the large range of parameters and response characteristics needed to properly tune a hearing aid to the various acoustic environments to which a user may be exposed, and such high-end hearing aids do not allow the user to adjust the hearing aid profile itself.

DRAFT ONLY SUMMARY

[0004] A hearing aid is disclosed including a casing configured to fit behind either the right or left ear of the user. The casing including at least one proximity sensor associated with the casing and configured to generate a signal proportional to the proximity of the casing to an object. The hearing aid includes a controller configured to select an operational mode from a plurality of operating modes in response to receiving the signal. The hearing aid further includes a transceiver configured to receive control signals from a computing device through a wireless communication channel. The control further configured to adjust configuration setting based on the control signal.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0005] FIG. 1 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a hearing aid system including a hearing aid with sensors for detecting a proximity that can be used to initiate automatic mode, profile, and state changes, and including a computing device for providing remote storage, switching, and adjustment of hearing aid profile and modes.

[0006] FIG. 2 is a block diagram of an embodiment of the hearing aid system of FIG. 1 configured to utilize an energy characterization table to determine remaining battery life.

[0007] FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a dongle, which includes a battery and an audio plug and configured to provide power and audio signals to the hearing aid of FIG. 1 and 2 during operation.

[0008] FIG. 4 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a system including dongle of FIG. 3 coupled to a receptacle of the hearing aid of FIG. 1 and 2 for recharging the battery.

[0009] FIG. 5 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a system including the dongle of FIG. 3 coupled to the receptacle of hearing aid of FIGs. 1 and 2 for providing a power assist mode.

[0010] FIG. 6 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a system including of the dongle of FIG. 3 connected to the receptacle of the hearing of FIGs. 1 and 2 for providing a power assist mode, a recharge mode, a remote supply power mode,- and a power assist/recharge mode. [0011] FIG. 7 is a diagram of an embodiment of the computing device of FIG. 1 for executing a hearing aid application including a user-selectable options menu for controlling and/or programming the hearing aid and for indicating a battery charge for batteries of the hearing aid.

[0012] FIG. 8 is a diagram of one possible embodiment of the energy characterization table of FIG. 2, which can be used to determine a battery charge of the batteries of the hearing aid.

[0013] FIG. 9 is a diagram of one possible example of the operations table of FIG. 2, which can be used to determine operating modes and operational adjustments in view of the determined battery charge.

[0014] FIG. 10 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a system, which can be incorporated into the hearing aid of FIG. 1 and which is configured to limit hearing damage over time.

[0015] FIG. 1 1 is a block diagram of an embodiment of an analog design of the system of FIG. 10.

[0016] FIG. 12 is a graph illustrating an embodiment of a possible representative sound adjustment curve, which can be generated to protect the user's hearing using the systems depicted in FIGs. 10 and 1 1.

[0017] FIG. 13 is a flow diagram of an embodiment of a method of limiting hearing damage by controlling the systems of FIGs. 10 and 1 1.

[0018] FIG. 14 is a flow diagram of an embodiment of a method of determining an operating mode of a hearing aid in response to detecting a proximity.

[0019] In the following description, the use of the same reference numerals in different drawings indicates similar or identical items.

[0020]

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

[0021] Embodiments of a system are described below that include at least one hearing aid and a computing device configurable to control the hearing aid. In an example, the computing device can be any electronic device capable of executing sets of instructions, such as software applications, including a portable computer, a cell phone, a personal digital assistant, or other computing device. In a particular example, the computing device communicates with the hearing aid through a short-range wireless communication channel, such as a Bluetooth® communication channel.

[0022] The software includes user-selectable options that are configured to allow the user to configure the hearing aid in real time, monitor and charge the hearing aid's battery life during use, and select, modify, and update the hearing aid profile used to shape sound to compensate for the user's hearing loss during operation. In some instances, the hearing aid may be

interchangeable between the user's right ear and/or left ear, and the hearing aid system is configured to determine the ear on which the hearing aid is being worn and to dynamically configure the hearing aid for the user's right ear or left ear, accordingly.

[0023] Further, the hearing aid includes a rechargeable battery and connector adapted to provide power and/or audio during operation, a transceiver configurable for wireless

communication with the computing device, and at least one proximity sensor for detecting proximity of the user's head and/or ear, which proximity can be used to determine operational states and modes of the hearing aid. An example of an embodiment of a hearing aid system is described below with respect to FIG. 1.

[0024] FIG. 1 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a hearing aid system 100 including a hearing aid 102 with sensors for detecting a proximity that can be used to initiate automatic mode, profile, and state changes and including a computing device 140 for providing remote storage and user-controlled (or automatic) adjustment of hearing aid profile and modes. Hearing aid 102 includes hearing aid circuitry 103 and a controller 128.

[0025] Hearing aid circuitry 103 includes a processor 120 (such as a digital signal processor (DSP)) connected to a microphone 1 16 and a speaker 1 16. It should be appreciated that, for simplicity, some circuitry is omitted from the drawings. For example, hearing aid 102 may include an analog-to-digital converter (not shown) between microphone 1 16 and processor 120 (in addition to one or more filters or amplifiers). Further, hearing aid 102 may include a digital- to-analog converter (not shown) between processor 120 and speaker 1 18 together with other circuitry, such as amplifiers, driver circuitry, and the like. [0026] Processor 120 is programmable via instructions stored in memory 104, which is connected to processor 120, and is configured to modulate electrical signals received from microphone 1 16 according to a hearing aid profile associated with the user to produce a shaped output signal that is customized to compensate for a user's particular hearing ability. Processor 120 provides the shaped signal to speaker 1 16 for reproduction to the user as audible sound. Memory 104 stores hearing aid swap instructions 106, at least one hearing aid profile 108, a plurality of operating modes 1 10 (such as left ear mode 1 1 1 and right ear mode 1 12), and data related to one or more operating states 1 14.

[0027] Hearing aid circuitry 103 also includes a front sensor 124 configured to detect a proximity and positioned on a housing of hearing aid 102 to detect the curvature of the back of the user's ear when the hearing aid 102 is worn. Hearing aid circuitry 103 further includes a left sensor 125 configured to detect a proximity and positioned on a left side of the housing of hearing aid 102 to detect a proximity of the user's head relative to hearing aid 102 when hearing aid 102 is placed on the user's right ear. Hearing aid circuitry 103 also includes and right sensor 126 configured to detect a proximity and positioned on a right side of the housing of hearing aid 102 to detect a proximity between the user's head and hearing aid 102 when hearing aid 102 is placed on the user's left ear. Front sensor 124, left sensor 125, and right sensor 126 are each connected to controller 128, which is further connected to processor 120 and configured to monitor the signals from sensors 124, 125, and 126 to determine if a state/mode change to hearing aid 102 should be made. Controller 128 is also coupled to a delay 130, which is configured to delay the activation of hearing aid 102 to prevent mechanical feedback caused by introducing speaker 1 18 into the user's ear when the user first puts on the hearing aid 102. Delay 130 includes a connection to processor 120 for communicating timing information for delaying signal processing to prevent acoustic feedback as the user puts on the hearing aid 102.

Controller 128 is further connected to a transceiver 122 configured to communicate with computing device 140 through a wireless (or wired) communication channel.

[0028] Computing device 140 can be any electronic device that is capable of executing processor-readable instructions, including a personal digital assistant (PDA), a smart phone or cell phone, a tablet computer with a touch screen display (such as Apple Computer, Inc.'s Ipad®), a notebook computer or another portable computing device adapted to send and receive radio frequency signals according to any protocol compatible with hearing aid 102. The term "computing device" is used throughout this disclosure to refer to a system that has the capability to execute processor readable instructions, to receive user inputs, and to send and receive a wide variety of signals to and from a network, such as a public switched telephone network, a wireless network, a computer network, or any combination thereof. In some instances, the computing device may be a simple system designed to send and receive voice information (such as a wireless telephone), or a complex system including further computational functionality. A "portable computing device" is one that can be held in a hand or worn comfortably by a user. The portable computing device may be multifunctional and programmed to perform other tasks in addition to communicating with hearing aid 102. Some examples of other tasks include, but are not limited to, executing a game, establishing communication links with a network for phone calls and/or electronic messaging and web browsing, accessing a calendar, providing an alarm clock or other functions. One representative embodiment of computing device 122 includes the Apple iPhone®, which is commercially available from Apple Computers, Inc. of Cupertino, California or the Blackberry®, available from Research In Motion Limited of Waterloo, Ontario. Other types of mobile telephone devices with short range wireless capability can also be used. Such telephone devices can communicate with a network to perform one or more of its ordinary functions (such as web browsing or telephone communicatons), and can be configured to communicate with hearing aid 102 through the wireless communication channel. The wireless communication channel may be any short-range communication channel, including, but not limited to, Bluetooth®.

[0029] Computing device 140 includes a memory 142 connected to a processor 158.

Computing device 140 further includes a transceiver 166 connected to processor 158 and configured to send and receive data packets through the communication channel to transceiver 122 in hearing aid 102. Computing device 140 also includes a user interface 160, which includes a display interface 164 (such as a liquid crystal display or LCD) to display information to a user and an input interface 162 (e.g., a keypad, a keyboard, a pointer, touch-sensitive interface, or some other interface) to receive user input. In some embodiments, display interface 164 and input interface 162 are combined in a single component, such as in a touch screen on a smart phone. [0030] Memory 142 stores a plurality of hearing aid profiles 152 and a plurality of instructions which are executable by processor 136, including a hearing aid application 144. Hearing aid application 144 includes hearing aid profile generation instructions 146, profile adjustment instructions 148, and profile activation instructions 150. Hearing aid profile generation instructions 146, when executed by processor 158, cause processor 158 to provide a user interface to allow a user to generate new hearing aid profiles, which can be stored in hearing aid profiles 152. Hearing aid profile adjustment instructions 148, when executed by processor 158, cause processor 158 to provide a user interface that is accessible to a user to adjust an existing hearing aid profile, such as one of hearing aid profiles 152. Hearing aid activation instructions 150, when executed by processor 158, cause processor 158 to provide a hearing aid profile to hearing aid 102 via transceiver 166.

[0031] As mentioned above, both hearing aid 102 and computing device 140 include memory devices to store hearing aid profiles. As used herein, the term "hearing aid profile" refers to a collection of acoustic configuration settings for a single hearing aid or a pair of hearing aids, which are used by processors within each hearing aid (such as processor 120 within hearing aid 102) to shape acoustic signals for a user. In general, a user's hearing deficiency in one ear may differ from that in the other ear. Accordingly, each hearing aid profile may include a first set of sound shaping instructions for the hearing aid on the right ear and a second set of sound shaping instructions for the hearing aid on the left ear. If the user only has a single hearing aid either the first or second set of sound shaping instructions may be excluded from the hearing aid profile.

[0032] Each set of sound shaping instructions include one or more parameters configured to shape sound according to the user's hearing characteristics of either the user's left or right ear to compensate for the user's hearing loss in that ear. Each hearing aid profile may also be configured to shape sound in a particular acoustic environment. For example the desired sound shaping in a noisy environment can differ from that of the desired sound shaping in a quiet acoustic environment. Thus, the first set of sound shaping instructions in one hearing aid profile may differ from the first set of sound shaping instructions in a second hearing aid profile.

Likewise, the second set of sound shaping instructions in one hearing aid profile may differ from the second set of sound shaping instructions in a second hearing aid profile. [0033] In particular, each hearing aid profile 152 or 108 includes the one or more parameters that are configurable to customize the sound shaping provided by processor 120 to adjust the response characteristics of hearing aid 102. A particular hearing aid profile can be applied by processor 120 not only to compensate for hearing deficiencies of either the user's right or left ear, but also to eliminate unwanted sounds or otherwise enhance the sound-related signals. The hearing aid profile can include parameters for adjusting signal amplitude and gain characteristics, signal processing algorithms, frequency response characteristics, coefficients associated with one or more signal processing algorithms, or any combination thereof. The signal amplitude and gain characteristics are frequency specific, making it possible to amplify signal content at selected frequencies and to suppress the signal content at other frequencies.

[0034) In an example, hearing aid 102 begins in an off/sleep state to conserve energy and is configured to be worn behind the ear of the user. When the user places hearing aid 102 behind his ear, front sensor 124 detects a proximity to the user's ear and left sensor 125 or right sensor 126 detects a proximity to the user's head. If the user places hearing aid 102 on his right ear, left sensor 125 detects the proximity of the right side of the user's head. If the user places hearing aid 102 on his left ear, right sensor 126 detects the proximity of the right side of the user's head. Controller 128 receives input signals from the front sensor 124 and one of the right and left sensors 125 and 126 and provides a control signal to processor 120. The control signal indicates that hearing aid 102 is in use and indicates which ear it has been placed on based on the combination of input signals received at controller 128. Processor 120 uses the control signal to determine the state, the mode of the hearing aid (left ear mode or right ear mode), and the hearing aid profile to utilize.

[0035] Once processor 120 receives the control signal from controller 128, processor 120 changes the state of the hearing aid 102 from an off-state to an on-state and applies right ear mode 1 1 1 or left ear mode 1 12. After switching to the operational mode based on the control signal, processor 120 selects either the first or second set of sound shaping instructions from hearing aid profile 108 as indicated by the operational mode and applies the selected sound- shaping instructions (hearing aid profile) to shape electrical signals received from microphone 1 16 to produce a shaped output signal according to the selected sound shaping instructions. [0036] In some instances, the hearing aid profile selected by processor 120 may not be suitable for the user or for the user's listening environment. For example, the user may have switched acoustic environments while hearing aid 102 was in an off-state. In this instance, the user may wish to alter hearing aid profile 108 by selecting a new hearing aid profile from the plurality of hearing aid profiles 152 stored in memory 142 on computing device 140. Because hearing aid profile 108 can be communicated to computing device 140 from hearing aid 102, computing device 140 is able to provide indicators about hearing aid profile 108 to the user via display interface 160. For example, when hearing aid 102 is switched to an on-state, processor 120 may transmit data via transceiver 122 to computing device 140 . The data may include the state of hearing aid 102, the operational mode of hearing aid 102, and the selected hearing aid profile 108.

[0037] Processor 158 of computing device 140 executes hearing aid application 144 in response to receiving the data or at the request of the user. Hearing aid application 144 causes processor 158 to present an identifier associated with a selected hearing aid profile 108 on the display interface 142 together with one or more user-selectable options, such as a first option to edit the selected hearing aid profile 108, a second option to activate the selected hearing aid profile 108, a third option to generate a new hearing aid profile, and/or a fourth option to select another hearing aid profile from the plurality of hearing aid profiles 152. Such user-selectable options can include soft-buttons, pull-down or drop-down menus, graphical images of buttons, menus or links that are selectable via a touch screen, and/or other types of buttons or menus.

[0038] If the user selects the first option to edit the selected hearing aid profile, processor 158 executes hearing aid profile adjustment instructions 148 and provides text and/or graphics (including one or more user-selectable options) in a graphical user interface to display interface 164. The user can interact with input interface 162 in response to the graphical user interface shown on display interface 164 to edit the parameters of each set of sound shaping instructions of the selected hearing aid profile 108. Once the hearing aid profile is adjusted, processor 158 stores the alterations in memory 142 (either overwriting the selected hearing aid profile or inserting a new hearing aid profile into hearing aid profiles 152, depending on the user's selection) and either executes hearing aid profile activation instructions 150 to communicate the adjusted profile to hearing aid 102 through the communication channel or returns to the option menu (again depending on the user's selection).

[0039] If processor 158 returns the option menu, the user may activate the hearing aid profile using the second option. If the processor 158 automatically executes hearing aid profile activation instructions 150 or the user selects the second option, processor 158 executes hearing aid profile activation instructions 150, which cause transceiver 166 to communicate the selected hearing aid profile to hearing aid 102. In response to receiving the selected hearing aid profile, processor 120 stores the selected hearing aid profile in memory 104 as hearing aid profile 108, either overwriting the previous hearing aid profile or adding a new hearing aid profile to the memory 104. Processor 120 also applies the selected hearing aid profile to modulate or shape signals from microphone 1 16 to produce modulated output signals for reproduction by speaker 1 18.

[0040] In general, this adjustment process may operate in a manner similar to an

initialization and adjustment processes executed by a hearing health professional (such as an audiologist), except that the user can configure his/her own hearing aid profiles using a cell phone or other computing device, and without having to visit the health professional. Further, the adjustment process allows a user to adjust his or her listening experience during operation using an electronic device that he/she already owns without having to purchase special equipment. Thus, a user can interact with a software application that is downloaded and stored on the user's phone to make adjustments as desired until the user is satisfied with hiser/her acoustic experience.

[0041] If the user selects the third option to generate a new profile, processor 158 executes hearing aid profile generation instructions 146, which allows the user to generate a new profile. In one instance, hearing aid profile generation instructions 146 provide a baseline hearing aid profile (e.g., a set of baseline settings) for the user and a graphical user interface including user- selectable options for configuring the set of baseline settings of the hearing aid profile.

Alternatively, hearing aid profile generation instructions 146 provide a selected hearing aid profile as a starting point and a graphical user interface including user-selectable options for configuring the selected hearing aid profile as desired. [0042] In an example, hearing aid profile generation instructions 146 includes an automatic process that causes computing device 140 to detect and analyze the user's current acoustic environment and to generate a baseline profile for the user's current acoustic environment, which includes sound filters and gain adjustments to compensate for the user's hearing deficiency while removing undesirable background noise. In this example, computing device 140 may utilize a built-in microphone (not shown) or may communicate with hearing aid 102 to receive sound samples for detection and analysis. Once the baseline hearing aid profile is generated, the user may further edit the generated baseline hearing aid profile or simply select it for activation. In each instance, processor 158 stores the profile in memory 142. Processor 158 also selectively executes hearing aid profile activation instructions 150 in response to the user's authorization to activate the hearing aid profile. In some instances, computing device 140 may be configured to automatically send a hearing aid profile to hearing aid 102 without user selection.

[0043] When hearing aid 102 receives a hearing aid profile from computing device 140, processor 120 executes hearing aid profile swap instructions 106 to replace hearing aid profile 108 with the profile received from computing device 140. Once the profiles are swapped, processor 120 uses the new hearing aid profile in place of hearing aid profile 108 to shape electrical signals representative of sound received at one or more microphones 1 16 to produce a shaped audio signal. In an alternative example, processor 120 executes swap instructions 106 to store the new hearing aid profile in memory 104 together with hearing aid profile 108, making it possible for processor 120 to readily switch back to the hearing aid profile 108 if the acoustic conditions change.

[0044] In another example, hearing aid 102 begins in an on-state and the user removes it from his/her ear. In this example, front sensor 124, left sensor 125, and/or right sensor 126 detect a change in the proximity upon removal of the hearing aid 102. Because two sensors detect a change in the proximity, controller 128 determines that hearing aid 102 is no longer on the user's ear and provides a control signal to processor 120 indicating that processor 120 should turn off hearing aid 102. Controller 128 may include a time threshold such that the change in proximity has to be maintained for a period of time or a distance threshold indicating that a proximity must be greater than a distance threshold before controller 128 generates the control signal. In an example, during normal use, the position of hearing aid 102 may change, such as when the user is exercising and hearing aid 102 shifts or bounces from time to time on the user's ear. By requiring a certain duration and/or distance, hearing aid 102 is able to remain on during shifts in position without producing false "removal" detections.

[0045] In an alternative embodiment, in response to the control signal, processor 120 places hearing aid 102 in a sleep-mode, a recharge-mode, an idle-mode, or another reduced power mode. In such a mode, processor 120 deactivates some of hearing aid circuitry 103 within hearing aid 102. In particular, processor 120 shuts itself down and leaves controller 128 active to wake up the processor 120 in response to detecting a proximity using front sensor 124. In an example, controller 128 is implemented as a low-power logic circuit that consumes less power than processor 120. Thus, turning off the processor 120 and other the other hearing aid circuitry 103, while allowing controller 128 to selectively control front sensor 124, left sensor 125, and right sensor 126 to monitor for proximity, conserves battery power, extending the life of battery 132 of hearing aid 102 improving the user experience.

[0046] In general, hearing aid 102 includes a casing configured to fit either ear and to house the associated circuitry. By making the casing such that it fits either ear and by making the processor programmable (for either ear), the hearing aid system reduces manufacturing, programming, and development costs and increases the flexibility and ease of use for the user. At the same time, replacing the manual on/off switches and adding wireless remote control functionality improves reliability, improves resistance to dust and water, and reduces wear and tear on hearing aid 102. Further, overall manufacturing, programming, and development costs are reduced, in part, because control functions are provided by the user's device executing software and not by a special purpose remote control.

[0047] Hearing aid batteries discharge during normal operation, requiring recharge or replacement at regular intervals. One example of a system for determining remaining battery life of the battery is described below with respect to FIG. 2.

[0048] FIG. 2 is a block diagram of an embodiment 200 of the hearing aid system 100 of FIG. 1 configured to utilize an energy characterization table to determine remaining battery life of hearing aid 102. Data related to the remaining battery life can be transmitted to computing device 140 of FIG. 1 and presented to the user on display 164. Because system 200 is a closed system (i.e., in a device where every operation is known and no external device draws power from it), system 200 utilizes an energy characterization table and durational information associated with operation of particular components to determine energy usage and to provide a battery charge indicator. Unlike methods that measure voltage or current which consume power through the measurement process, the battery charge is calculated. Hearing aid system 200, because it is a closed-system, can utilize a lab-generated energy characterization table (such as table 212) in conjunction with controller 128, which is configured to route all operations, to monitor each operation over a standard time (such as over one second) and to estimate the remaining battery life efficiently and accurately based on the time for each operation and the associated energy usage corresponding to the operation as defined in the energy characterization table 212, without directly measuring the energy consumed.

[0049] Hearing aid 102 includes controller 128, which can be configured to route/control all operations of hearing aid 102. Controller 128 is connected to a power consumption monitor 208 to monitor a run time of each operation in order to accurately determine energy usage of hearing aid 102 and hearing aid circuitry 103. Controller 128 is coupled to a recharge circuit 206, which is connected to a batter 232 and to a receptacle 234 for receiving a connector from a power source 220, such as a recharger or an external battery pack or dongle. Controller 128 is disposed between recharge circuit 206 and hearing aid circuitry 103 such that controller 128 can monitor the power flow from battery 232 to hearing aid circuitry 103 and provide the data to power consumption monitor 208. This configuration would allow controller 128 to monitor power consumption based on current or voltage; however, controller 128 can be configured to control or route power to various circuits as needed, thereby monitoring power consumption based on duration and energy characterization of the active circuitry.

[0050] Power consumption monitor 208 includes memory 210, which stores an energy characterization table 212, an operations table 216, and an energy (or battery life) counter 214. Energy characterization table 212 can be generated in a lab for a closed system, such as hearing aid 102. Energy characterization table 212 includes an entry for each operation of hearing aid 102 representing the energy consumed over a specific time period for that operation. Operations table 216 is used by controller 128 to store operational information. For example, controller 128 adds an entry into operations table 216 including the start time and the end time for each operation. Energy counter 214 models the remaining charge value of the battery 232 as a function of the start and end times for each operation and the associated energy characterization. In one instance, energy counter 214 is a number between the maximum charge value of the battery and zero. In operation, as hearing aid 102 performs operations, controller 128 updates energy counter 214 using energy characterization table 212 and operations table 216 to accurately represent the remaining charge value of the battery 232. Thus, controller 128 maintains a battery charge indication without consuming power to measure the battery charge. Controller 128 may periodically update the battery charge indication or may do so in response to a battery charge status request from computing device 140, for example.

(0051) In one example, during operation controller 128 controls operations of the hearing aid circuitry 103 and stores data about each of the operations, which data includes a start time, in operations table 216. When each operation has been completed, controller 128 stores the end time in the operations table 216. Controller 128 continues to populate operations table 216 with each operation. Upon request or periodically, controller 128 calculates the energy consumption and adjusts the battery life counter 214 based on the operations and the energy usage

characterization.

[0052] During recharge, recharge circuit 206 monitors the charge added to battery 232 and provides the information to controller 128 for updating battery life counter 214 after the user disconnects power source 220. During a recharge operation, power source 220 is connected to recharge circuit 206. As current flows through recharge circuit 206 to battery 232, recharge circuit 206 monitors the charge stored by battery 232. When power source 220 is disconnected from receptacle 234, recharge circuit 206 provides the initial battery charge value of battery 232 to controller 128, which alters the value of battery counter 214 to reflect the state of battery 232. From this initial state, energy consumption can be calculated based on the duration of known operations without measuring battery charge directly.

[0053J In this manner controller 128 is able to record power expenditures and power gains of hearing aid 102 using power consumption monitor 208. At various times, controller 128 receives a trigger to provide data related to the battery life to the user. In one instance, the user inputs the request using a computing device 140 of FIG. 1 , which request is received at hearing aid 102 by transceiver 122. Alternatively, the trigger may be based on a periodic signal, such as from an internal timer or another internal source. Once the trigger is received by controller 128, controller 128 calculates the total energy consumed using the entries in operations table 216 and energy characterization table 212. In particular, controller 128 multiplies the run time for each operation in operations table 216 by the energy characterization value stored for that operation in energy characterization table 212 and then the values are totaled to generate a total energy used value. Controller 128 subtracts the total energy used value from battery life counter 214 to reflect the battery drain based on the usage value corresponding to the energy consumed by operations during the time between the last battery life update and the current trigger. Controller 128 then provides data related to battery life counter 214 to transceiver 122, which

communicates it to computing device 140 for display to the user on display interface 164.

[0054] Because operations table 216, stores the start time and stop (end) time of each operation, it is also useful for trouble shooting and debugging in the event of a catastrophic device failure. In such an event, a manufacturer or other service provider can analyze the operations table 216 to determine the source of the failure. Further, by keeping a record of the run time for each operation in operations table 216, controller 128 can be used to predict future energy usage patterns and battery life for hearing aid 102. Over time, hearing aid 102 can become more and more efficient at predicting how long a battery will last before requiring a recharge.

[0055] In an example, battery life counter 214 may be updated in real time whenever controller 128 determines that an operation is complete. Controller 128 calculates the energy consumed by retrieving the entry value from characterization table 212 corresponding to the operation and multiplying the entry value with a time difference between the start time and the end time of the operation to generate an "energy used" value. The energy used value is then subtracted from battery life counter 214 to reflect the change in remaining battery life.

[0056] In some instances, operations table 216 and energy characterization table 212 may be combined into a single table. In such an instance, selected fields of the table may be updated with operational information, while energy usage data remains unchanged. Further, while power consumption monitor 208 is depicted as including a memory 210, it should be understood that power consumption monitor 208 may be a circuit or combination of other components configured to monitor or infer the remaining battery life. Further, updating the battery life monitor 214 and operations table 216 can be done with minimum drain on the battery making it a very efficient system and with negligible battery usage.

[0057J In an example, controller 128 is configured to turn on and off various individual components of hearing aid 102 based on the detected proximity by sensors 124, 125, and 126, the state of the hearing aid, and the remaining power levels recorded in power consumption monitor 208. Controller 128 is thus able to prolong the battery life of hearing aid 102 by adjusting power consumption on a component by component basis. Further, receptacle 234 makes it possible for hearing aid 102 to connect to an external power source, including (for example) an external battery pack or dongle. An example of an external (removable) power source is described below with respect to FIG. 3.

[0058] FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a dongle 300 including a connector 328 configured to connect to receptacle 234 of hearing aid 102. Dongle 300 includes a wire 316 that extends from a housing 310 to connector 328. Housing 310 defines a battery receptacle

(enclosure) 312 for receiving one or more batteries, such as battery 304. Housing 310 is depicted in an exploded view, with battery 304 removed from battery receptacle 312 to demonstrate that battery 304 is replaceable and that housing 310 includes an opening for allowing the user to access and replace battery 304. Battery 304 is optionally connected to power regulator 306, which can be configured to regulate the voltage and/or current provided by battery 304 to provide a power supply that can be used within hearing aid 102. In some cases, when the power supplied by battery 304 matches that used within hearing aid 102 or hearing aid 102 includes a recharge circuit such as recharge circuit 206, power regulator 306 may be omitted or switched off.

[0059] Cable 316 is connected on one end to connector 328 which is designed to releasably couple to a receptacle 234 of hearing aid 102 to establish an electrical contact to hearing aid 102. At the other end cable 316 is divided to form two cable branches, an audio branch 318 and a power branch 320. Power branch 320 is connected to housing 310 and to battery 304 and/or power regulator 306 and configured to provide power to connector 328 and ultimately to provide power to the hearing aid 102 through cable 316. Audio branch 318 is connected to an audio connector 330 (shown as a tip sleeve ring (TSR) connector) which is configured to interface with an audio device (not shown) and to provide an audio signal to connector 328 and ultimately to hearing aid 102 for reproduction as sound. Alternatively, connector 330 can be a universal serial bus (USB) connector or other connector for interfacing to a computing device. In another alternative embodiment, connector 330 can be a plug with a power regulator configured to draw power from an outlet. In some embodiments, if power is supplied from another device or source (such as via a USB connection or a power outlet), the battery housing 310 may be omitted.

[0060] In an alternative embodiment, cable 316 may be divided within housing 310 rather than externally and/or audio connector 330 may be incorporated into housing 310. Alternatively, the audio branch 318 may be a separate cable having dual connectors (including audio connector 330 and a second connector (not shown) that can be removably attached to an input port (not shown) on housing 310. In this alternative instance, the audio branch 318 can be selectively omitted by the user when it is not wanted.

[0061] Dongle 300 may also include securing means, generally indicated at 308, connected to the outside of casing 310 for securing dongle 300 to a user's clothing. Securing means 308 may be, for example, a clip, clasp, or other known securing device. Securing means 308 allows the user to attach power dongle 300 to his/her clothing, transferring the weight of power dongle 300 from the user's ear to the user's clothing, increasing the comfort and adaptability of using power dongle 300.

[0062] In one embodiment, a user couples dongle 300 to hearing 102 aid via connector 328, which is configured to fit in receptacle 234 on hearing aid 102. Connector 328 may snap, lock, magnetically mate, hook or otherwise connect to receptacle 234. In one example, connector 328 may be a mini plug and may use a spring locking mechanism to couple to receptacle 234. In a second example, connector 328 may include a magnetic element that magnetically couples to an element associated with receptacle 234, securing connector 328 to receptacle 234 using magnetic forces. Once a connection is made, battery 304 provides a power supply and audio connector 330 provides an audio signal to hearing aid 102 through connector 328. Thus, dongle 300 is able to be used to recharge and/or power hearing aid 102 while the user is listening to music or otherwise using hearing aid 102.. [0063] In some embodiments, power regulator 308 may receive the power supply from battery 304 and regulate the power supply in a manner that is appropriate for hearing aid 102, allowing only the appropriate power supply level to flow through connector 328 to hearing aid 102 to perform battery management operations (such as recharge). In an alternative embodiment, dongle 300 may include a second connector at the end of another branch of cable 316 in order to provide power and audio to two hearing aids.

[0064] The power supply received from power dongle 300 may be used in the hearing aid 102 to provide a recharge to battery 132 or 232, to power circuitry 103 and controller 128 within the hearing aid 102, or both. The decision whether to provide a recharge or to supply power to circuitry 103 and controller 128 can be user-selected via computing device 140 or automatically chosen by controller 128 based on circuit activity.

[0065] In an alternative embodiment, housing 310 may be sealed, and battery 304 may be rechargeable. Additionally, in the illustrated embodiment, battery 304 is shown as an AAA battery; however, it should be understood that other types of batteries having different form factors are also possible. For example, the batteries can be stacked "button" or "coin"-type batteries, such as a zinc air battery typically used in hearing aids. Alternatively, the batteries could be AA, C, or D. Further, the batteries could be 3V, 4.5V or other voltage level batteries and may have associated form factors. By utilizing common types of batteries, the ease of use by the user is increased as the user is likely to have ready access to AAA batteries or other standard battery types.

[0066] FIG. 4 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a system 400 including dongle 300 connected to receptacle 234 of hearing aid 102 for recharging battery 232. Receptacle 234 is recessed relative to a surface of hearing aid 102 for receiving the connector (such as connector 328) of dongle 300 to form a connection assembly. Dongle 300 includes at least one battery 304 (or other energy storage devices), which may be connected to hearing aid 102 though regulator 306 and through one or more electrically conductive terminals 414. When dongle 300 is connected to receptacle 234, battery 304 and regulator 306 are connected to battery 232, which is connected to hearing aid circuitry 103 of hearing aid 102. [0067] In the illustrated embodiment, when dongle 300 is not connected to receptacle 234, battery 232 provides power to hearing aid circuitry 103 (including controller 128 of FIGs. 1 and 2). In particular, battery 232 provides a voltage potential that can be converted into a current for powering hearing aid circuitry 103. However, when dongle 300 is connected to receptacle 234, battery 304 within dongle 300 provides power to power regulator 306, which adjusts the power level to an appropriate level for powering hearing aid circuitry 103 and/or for recharging battery 232.

[0068] While the embodiment of FIG. 4 shows the battery 232 connected in parallel with the conductive terminals 414, other configurations are also possible. Another possible example is described below with respect to FIG. 5 where the battery 232 of hearing aid 102 is connected to only one of the conductive terminals.

[0069] FIG. 5 is a block diagram of a system 500 including dongle 300 connected to the receptacle 234 of hearing aid 102 for providing a power assist mode. Dongle 300 and hearing aid 102 are the same as that described above with respect to FIG. 4, except that hearing aid 102 includes a switch 504 configured to selectively couple one terminal of battery 232 to hearing aid circuitry 103. Further, hearing aid circuitry 103 includes logic 506 for controlling the switch 504.

[0070] In the illustrated example, when dongle 300 is connected to receptacle 234, battery 304 and regulator 306 are connected to hearing aid circuitry 103 through conductive terminals 414. Hearing aid circuitry 103 includes logic 506 configured to control switch 504 to disconnect one terminal of battery 232 from hearing aid circuitry 103 in response to detecting dongle 300.

Switch 504 may also be controlled in a variety of other manners. For example, a contact sensor or proximity detector connected to the surface of receptacle 234 could be used to trigger switch 504. Once switch 504 has been disconnected, dongle 300 provides power to hearing aid circuitry 103 in lieu of the internal battery 232 conserving the battery life.

[0071] Alternatively, a second switch (not shown) may be provided to selectively couple the one terminal of battery 232 to the conductive terminal in parallel with hearing aid circuit 103 to recharge the battery 232 while the hearing aid circuit 103 uses power supplied by the dongle 300. In this instance, battery 232 may operate as a filter to reduce supply ripple from the power supplied by dongle 300.

[0072 j While the embodiments of FIGs. 4 and 5 depict the dongle 300 connecting to the conductive terminals of the receptacle 234 of hearing aid 102, dongle 300 may connect connector 328 and cable 316 as shown in FIG. 3. In such a case, the regulator 306 can be within housing 310 remote from connector 328. While FIG. 5 depicted a switch 504 for selectively coupling battery 232 to hearing aid circuitry 103, as previously mentioned, other configurations are also possible. One possible circuit configuration for selectively coupling the battery 232 to dongle 300 and/or to hearing aid circuitry 103 is described below with respect to FIG. 6.

[0073] FIG. 6 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a system 600 including of the dongle 300 of FIG. 3 connected to the receptacle 234 of the hearing 102 of FIGs. 1 and 2 for providing a power assist mode, a recharge mode, a remote supply power mode, and a power assist/recharge mode. Dongle 300 and hearing aid 102 are the same as that described above with respect to FIG. 5, except that hearing aid 102 includes a second and third switch 602 and 604 to selectively switch between the power assist mode, the recharge mode, the remote supply power mode, and the combined power assist/recharge mode within hearing aid 102.

[0074] In the illustrated embodiment, when dongle 300 is connected to receptacle 234, battery 304 and regulator 306 are connected to hearing aid circuitry 103 through conductors 414.

Hearing aid circuitry 103 includes logic 506 configured to provide one or more control signals 608 to switches 504, 602, and 604 to selectively alter the connections, causing hearing aid 102 to enter one of multiple modes. In a first mode, control signal 608 causes switches 504 and 604 to close and switch 602 to open placing hearing aid 102 in the power assist mode, in which hearing aid circuitry 103 receives power from both dongle 300 and battery 232. In a second mode, control signal 608 causes switches 504 and 602 to close and 604 to open placing hearing aid 102 in a recharge mode. In the third mode control signal 608 causes switches 504 and 602 to open and switch 604 to close, placing hearing aid 102 in a remote power supply mode in which the charge on battery 232 is conserved and power is supplied to hearing aid circuitry 103 by dongle 300. In a fourth mode, control signal 608 causes switches 602 and 604 to close and switch 504 to open, placing hearing aid 102 in the combined power assist/recharge mode, in which hearing aid 102 receives power from battery 304 of dongle to simultaneously power hearing aid circuitry 103 and recharge battery 232.

[0075] FIG. 7 is a diagram of an embodiment of a computing device 140 of FIG. 1 , which is shown executing an example of the hearing aid application 144 including a user-selectable options menu 702 and battery charge indicators (left battery indicator 710 and right battery indicator 712). Computing device 140 is represented as a smart phone with a touch screen user interface 160, which combines display interface 164 and input interface 162. Computing device 140 provides a graphical user interface including user-selectable elements (such as menus and buttons) to touch screen user interface 160 with which a user may interact to control one or more hearing aids (such as a hearing aid 102).

[0076] Touch screen user interface 160 also shows a selected hearing aid profile 704 and user- selectable options menu 702, which allows the user to edit selected hearing aid profile 704, to activate selected hearing aid profile 704 labeled "Conversation", to generate a new hearing aid profile, and/or to select another hearing aid profile from the plurality of hearing aid profiles 152 as described in FIG. 1. User interface 160 also includes left and right battery indicators 710 and 712. Left battery indicator 710 is a visual representation of the data related to the battery life received from the hearing aid on the user's left ear, and right battery indicator 712 is a visual representation of data related to battery life received from the hearing aid on the user's right ear.

[0077] As discussed above with respect to FIG. 2, at various times, controller 128 in hearing aid 102 receives a trigger to provide data related to the battery life to the user. In response to the trigger, controller 128 calculates the remaining battery life using entries in operations table 216 and energy characterization table 212, subtracts the calculated energy consumption value from the battery life counter 214, and provides the data related to the remaining battery life of battery 132 or 232 of hearing aid 102 to computing device 144 via transceiver 122. Once the data is received by computing device 140 via transceiver 166, processor 158 executes instructions using the data to generate a graphical representation of the data that can be presented to the user within a graphical user interface provided to touch screen user interface 160 for display as the corresponding left or right battery indicator 710 or 712. [0078] In one embodiment, the data related to the hearing aid battery life may include data from any of the operations table 216, the energy characterization table 212, and the battery life counter 214. Hearing aid application 144 includes instructions that, when executed, cause processor 158 to estimate the battery drain over time based on the data until another update from the hearing aid including data related to the hearing aid battery life is received. In this manner, left and right battery indicators 710 and 712 may display a relatively accurate battery life measurement to the user during the period between update events.

[0079] In another embodiment, the user may tap or touch the right or left battery indicator 710 or 712, causing computing device 140 to send a trigger to the hearing aid 102 corresponding to the selected battery indicator 710 or 712. The trigger, as discussed in FIG. 2, cause the hearing aid 102 to return data related to the battery life, which processor 158 uses to update the corresponding battery indicator 710 or 712.

[0080] In yet another example, the battery life indicators 710 and 712 are configured to update regularly (periodically). Hearing aid application 144 is configured to cause processor 158 to periodically send a trigger to hearing aid 102 for an update to the data related to the battery life. In this way the battery life display is updated on a periodic basis without the need for the user to select the battery life option or processor 158 to make estimations.

[0081] Hearing aid application 144 can be configured to cause processor 158 to provide an audible alert or notification to the user in response to receiving data related to a hearing aid that indicates that the battery life is below certain thresholds. For example, hearing aid application 144 may cause processor 158 to control a transducer (not shown) to vibrate to provide a tactile warning when one or both hearing aid batteries are low. Alternatively, hearing aid application 144 may cause processor 158 to generate an audible alert, such as a ring, a beep, a spoken message, or a combination thereof when one or both hearing aid batteries are low. Further, hearing aid application 144 may cause processor 158 to control a light indicator or the touch screen interface to flash or otherwise light-up to provide a visual indicator when the data related to the hearing aid battery life indicates that one or both hearing aid batteries are low. [0082] As discussed above, the energy utilization table 212 can be used to represent energy utilized to perform each particular operation of the closed system of hearing aid 102. An example of an energy characterization table 212 is described below with respect to FIG. 8.

[0083] FIG. 8 is a diagram of one possible embodiment of energy characterization table 212 of FIG. 2. Energy characterization table 212 includes a list of operations, such as a first

microcontroller unit operation (MCU(l)), a second MCU operation (MCU(2)), a first digital signal processor (DSP) operation (Processor( 1 )), and so on. Each entry for an operation in the energy characterization table 212 includes a characterization of the energy consumed by the operation normalized over a period of time (a time unit). In this example, the energy consumed is normalized as energy consumed per second. There is an entry for each operation of each component of the hearing aid circuitry 103, and the illustrated portion of energy characterization table 212 depicts only a limited number of those operations. Each entry may also have a different energy usage/per time value because different components may consume different amounts of energy when operating (and/or depending on the operation being performed). For example, MCU(2) may represent an add operation and MCU(l) may represent a subtract operation, and because, in this illustrative example, the add operation uses more energy than a subtract operation, MCU(2) has a higher energy value entry in energy characterization table 212. In another example, entries may represent higher level operations. In one example processor(l ) represents a modulate audio signals operation and processor(2) represents a conversion operation, such as a convert digital to analog operation. Based on their different levels of power consumption, the energy characterization table 212 includes different energy utilization values. In this way, energy usage for each operation of hearing aid 102 is characterized in a read only table (energy characterization table 212) that can be saved in memory during manufacturing and used as a reference for how much energy is used per operation per second.

[0084] FIG. 9 is a diagram of one possible example of operations table 216 of FIG. 2.

Operations table 216 includes each operation's name, an associated start time, and an associated end time such that the total run time for each operation can be calculated. Some operations have been performed multiple times as is the case with operation MCU(l ) in which case, each instance of the operation is recorded as a separate entry in the operations table 1 16 with different start and stop times. It is also possible that one operation is not yet completed, as in the case of Microphone(l) where the microphone is turned on but not yet turned off. The end time is not yet recorded for operations in progress. However, the current energy consumption can be determined based on the current time relative to the start time.

[0085] In another embodiment, operations table 216 may also include a column for total time that is determined when the end time is entered or in response to a trigger, such as a timer or a user-initiated request. It is also understood that more columns may be added to record additional data corresponding to the operations for use in troubleshooting or debugging, for example, in the event of a catastrophic failure. As various usage times or run times are calculated and the battery life monitor is updated, entries in the operations table 216 may be deleted or otherwise identified so that the values within the operations table 216 are not reused, resulting in an incorrect battery life estimate.

[0086] It should be appreciated that a pre-configured operations table 216 and a pre-configured energy utilization table 212 (FIGs. 2 and 8) provide less-than-accurate estimates in an "open" system that allow for hardware modifications and/or the connection of external components that draw power from the battery 232. However, in closed systems that have a known and fully characterized configuration that cannot be changed by the user, such information can be used to determine highly accurate battery life measurements.

[0087] While the above-discussion has focused on general programmability of the hearing aid system and associated power availability calculations, the hearing aid system can also include circuitry and/or instructions for limiting hearing damage under certain conditions. An example of a hearing aid system configured to limit the audio output to prevent hearing damage is described below with respect to FIG. 10.

[0088] FIG. 10 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a system 1000 which can be

incorporated into hearing aid 102 of FIG. 1 and is configured to limit hearing damage over time. System 1000 includes personal sound device 1002 connected to an audio source 1030. Personal sound device 1002 is a sound producing device in which the speaker 1004 of the device is inserted into the ear canal of the user (such as speaker 1 18 in FIG. 1 ). Such personal sound devices include hearing aids (such as hearing aid 102), headphone systems, and ear-bud systems. Personal sound device 1002 includes an audio input 1008 (such as an audio jack or a microphone 1 16 in FIG. 1 ) for receiving an audio signal from audio source 1030. Personal sound device 1002 may also include an analog-to-digital converter (not shown) connected to audio input 1008 and to processor 1010. Processor 1010 is connected to memory 1012 and to speaker 1004.

Memory 1012 includes instructions and data that can be executed or processed by processor 1010. Such instructions and data include damage calculating instructions 1020, damage threshold data 1022, damage counter 1024, regeneration instructions 1026, remediation instructions 1027, regeneration threshold data 1028, and maximum (max) DB threshold data 1029, and optionally other thresholds and/or other instructions.

[0089] Damage calculating instructions 1020 are executable by processor 1010 to calculate the hearing damage per second caused by the audio signal's current decibel level. Damage threshold data 1022 includes a numerical representation of the amount of hearing damage a user's ear can absorb before the damage becomes permanent. Damage counter 1024 includes instructions for accumulating an amount of damage attributable to the acoustic exposure of the user and a numerical value of the amount of damage the user has sustained from using system 1000.

[0090] It should be appreciated that, in some instances, the ear can repair or regenerate itself through periods of low noise (i.e., noise levels below a safe hearing threshold) or no noise. Such regeneration takes time. Regeneration calculating instructions 126 are executable by processor 1010 to calculate the amount of regeneration or repair that the user's ear has achieved over time. Remediation instructions 1027 are executable by processor 1010 to reduce the amplitude of or to otherwise modify the audio signal as the user listens to personal sound device 1002. As discussed below in greater detail, remediation instructions 1027 may be programmed in a number of ways to provide a variety of listening options to the user. Regeneration threshold data 1028 includes a numerical value representing the decibel level at which the damage caused by the audio signal is less than the regeneration rate of the user's ear. Max DB threshold data 1029 is a numerical value representing a peak decibel level the ear can handle before instantaneous hearing loss occurs.

(0091] In one embodiment, the count of damage counter 1024 is originally set to zero as if the user's ears are fully repaired (i.e., in a fully regenerated, no-hearing-impairment state). As an audio signal is received from audio source 1030 at audio input 1008, the audio signal is converted to a digital signal for processing by processor 1010. Processor 1010 monitors the amplitude of the audio signal and executes damage calculating instructions 1020 to determine the damage over time caused by the decibel level of the audio signal as it is reproduced for the user. Processor 1010 uses damage calculating instructions 1020 to convert the amplitude of the audio signal to a decibel level to obtain the damage per second at that decibel level. It is important to understand that the higher the amplitude of the audio signal, the higher the sound pressure level becomes and the more damage that is caused per second to a user's ear. Damage calculating instructions 120 then uses the damage per second determination to calculate the damage to the user's ear based on the amount of time the decibel level is maintained, and adds the resulting data to damage counter 1024 to indicate the current state of the user's hearing.

[0092] Processor 1010 also executes regeneration instructions 1026. Regeneration instructions 126 model the regeneration rate of the human ear, so as the user listens to audio signals at a level that allows for regeneration, the human ear is capable of repairing the damage at a determinable rate. Regeneration instructions 1026 model the regeneration rate of the human ear by subtracting the regeneration per second from damage counter 1024. It should be noted that the damage rate and the regeneration rate are both impacted by the amplitude of the audio signals, such that the rates will vary over time. Thus, as damage calculating instructions 1020 add damage to damage counter 1024, regeneration instructions 1026 may subtract damage. The addition and subtraction of damage may occur at different rates depending on the audio level. In this way, damage counter 1024 models the total hearing damage that actually occurred to the ear at any time during the period in which the user listens to system 1000.

[0093] As previously discussed, prolonged exposure to noise levels above a safe acoustic threshold can cause permanent hearing impairment. Accordingly, as damage counter 1024 approaches a permanent hearing threshold included within the damage threshold data 1022, processor 1010 selectively executes remediation instructions 1027 to reduce the amplitude of the audio signal. Such remediation instructions 1027 can include various steps or options, which may be executed at different stages as the damage counter 1024 approaches the permanent hearing loss threshold. [0094] In a particular example, processor 1010 executes remediation instructions 1027 when damage counter 124 reaches or is about to exceed the damage threshold 1022. At this point, remediation instructions 1027 cause the processor 1010 to adjust the decibel level of the audio signal to a safe level that is below the regeneration threshold 128 and to limit the decibel level of the audio signal to a safe level until at least a portion of the hearing damage is repaired as modeled by the regeneration instructions 1026. In an example, remediation instructions 1027 may be programmed to control processor 1010 to reduce the decibel level to a safe level that is below the regeneration threshold 1028 before damage counter 1024 equals or exceeds damage threshold 1022. By reducing the decibel level before damage counter 1024 reaches damage threshold 1022, system 1000 may retain for the user a buffer to protect the user's hearing in case the user is exposed to other sound signals outside of the control of system 1000.

[0095] In a second example, remediation instructions 1027 cause processor 1010 to gradually decrease the amplitude of the audio signal over time in proportion to the distance between the damage counter 1024 and the damage threshold 1022. The gradual decrease of the amplitude may be a substantially linear decrease or a non-linear adjustment that decreases the decibel level more rapidly as the hearing counter 1024 approaches the damage threshold 1022. By gradually decreasing the decibel level as the hearing counter 1024 approaches the damage threshold 1022, the user can listen to the audio signal longer at levels above safe hearing levels without causing permanent damage.

[0096] In another particular example, processor 1010 executes remediation instructions 1027 to change the amplitude of the audio signal over time to fit a curve based on the original decibel level of the audio signal and a determined time period for listening. The curve is a pre- configured output curve designed to extend the amount of time the user can utilize system 1000 at higher decibel and amplitude levels by lengthening the time it takes for the damage counter 1024 to reach damage threshold 1022. The time period may be predetermined (such as the average listening time of a normal user), set by the user, determined from the user's normal listening behavior, or any combination thereof.

[0097] In one particular embodiment, processor 1010 executes remediation instructions 1027 to calculate a decibel adjustment curve that processor 1010 can use to adjust the audio output signal such that the decibel level of the audio signal drops below regeneration threshold 1028 when damage counter 1024 reaches a specified percentage of damage threshold 1022. In yet another example, remediation instructions 1027 cause processor 1010 to use a more stepped approach to limiting hearing damage. In this example, processor 1010 executes remediation instructions 1027 to determine a series of decibel levels based on the original decibel level of the audio signal, which step down incrementally from the original decibel level over time so that the audio level is reduced incrementally as damage counter 1024 increases. After a first period of time, processor 1010 executes remediation instructions 1027 to reduce the audio signal by a first increment, and then allows the user to listen to the audio signal at that decibel level until damage counter 1024 reaches a specified fraction of damage threshold 1022. After the specified fraction is reached or exceeded, processor 1010 executes remediation instructions 1027 to decrease the decibel level of the audio output by another incremental step. In a particular example, if there were four steps, processor 1010 can decrement the decibel level by a step when damage counter 1024 equals one fourth of damage threshold 1022, one-half of damage threshold 1022, three fourths of damage threshold 1022, and so on. When the damage counter 1024 approaches the damage threshold 1022, processor 1010 executes remediation instructions 1027 to decrease the decibel level to a safe decibel level that is below regeneration threshold 1028.

[0098] In all of the above examples, once the decibel level is reduced below the regeneration threshold 1028, processor 1010 is configured to limit the audio signal to the safe decibel level until damage counter 1024 indicates that regeneration has reached a predetermined fraction of damage threshold 1022. For example, system 1000 may use remediation instructions 1027 to increase the decibel level again once damage counter 1024 falls to 50% of damage threshold 1022.

[0099] It should be understood that system 1000 may also be designed to decrement the damage counter 1024. In this instance, damage counter 1024 may be originally set at damage threshold 1022, and the damage counter 1024 is reduced during operation based on damage calculating instructions 1026 and is increased by regeneration instructions 1026. In this instance, other remediation instructions (such as incrementally adjusting or limiting the audio signal as the damage counter 1024 approaches the damage threshold 1022) would be changed such that the remediation instructions 1027 would cause the processor 1010 to limit the decibel level of the audio signal as the damage counter 1024 decreases.

[00100] While FIG. 10 depicts a digital head phone system 1000 that uses a processor 1010 adapted to implement damage limiting personal sound device 1002, it is also possible to implement a headphone system that can limit the decibel level of the audio signal using analog circuitry. An example of such a system is described below with respect to FIG. 1 1.

[0100] FIG. 1 1 is a block diagram of an embodiment of a system 1 100 representing an analog design of the system 1000 of FIG. 10. System 1 100 is designed, such that when the user listens to an audio signal with a decibel level above the regeneration threshold, hearing damage is recorded and, when the audio signal's decibel level is below the regeneration threshold, hearing repair is recorded. System 1 100 includes a personal sound device 1 104, such as a hearing aid, headphones, or ear-bud system, connected to an audio source 1 102 for receiving analog audio signals.

[0101] Personal sound device 1 104 includes variable gain amplifier (VGA) 1 1 10 with a first input connected to audio source 1 102 for receiving audio signals, a gain control input, and an output connected to a speaker 1 1 12. VGA 1 1 10 is configured to scale the amplitude of the audio signals and to provide the scaled audio signals to speaker 1 1 12, which generates an acoustic signal and provides it to the user. The output of VGA 1 1 10 is also optionally connected to delay 1 1 14, which is utilized in a feedback loop including a comparator 1 124, a threshold indicator 1 130, a transistor 1 122, a pulse generator 1 126, a energy storage element 1 1 18 (such as an integrator or capacitor), a switch 1 120, and a power source 1 1 16 to provide stability for the system 1 100. Delay 1 1 14 slows the rate at which volume adjustments happen.

[0102] Analog comparator 1 124 includes a first input connected to an output of the delay 1 1 14, a second input connected to the threshold indicator 1 130, and an output connected to a terminal of transistor 1 122. Threshold indicator 1 130 is a value that can be set at the regeneration threshold leverl for use by analog comparator 1 124 to determine if the scaled audio signal is above or below the threshold. Analog comparator 1 124 further is connected to transistor 1 122 to increase the resistance level of transistor 1 122 as the charge on energy storage element 1 1 18 increases. In this way the rate of charge increase on energy storage element 1 1 18 is variable to correctly model the rate at which the user undergoes hearing damage at different amplitudes. When the scaled audio signal exceeds the threshold indicator 1 130, analog comparator 1 124 provides an output signal to transistor 1 122, which biases energy storage element 1 1 18.

[0103J Energy storage element 1 1 18 operates as a damage counter by producing an output signal to adjust the gain of VGA 1 1 10. Energy storage element 1 1 18 may be an integrator, capacitor, or other storage element. The following description proceeds as if energy storage element 1 1 18 is a capacitor. It should be understood that system 1 100 operates in a similar manner if energy storage element 1 1 18 is an integrator. Energy storage element 1 1 18 is connected to switch 1 120 which is turned on and off by pulse generator 1 126 to couple energy storage element 1 1 18 to power source 1 1 16 according to timing of the generated pulses. Energy storage element 1 1 18 will receive charge from power source 1 1 16 when switch 1 120 is closed. When transistor 1 122 is turned on, charge stored in energy storage element 1 1 18 flows to ground 1 128 through transistor 1 122 and the rate of current flow is dependent on the signal level/voltage applied to the gate of transistor 1 122, which level is set by the output of analog comparator 1 124.

[0104] If the scaled audio signal has a decibel level that is above the threshold indicator 1 130, analog comparator 1 124 turns on current flow through transistor 1 122 and current flows from energy storage element 1 1 18 through transistor 1 122 to ground. Energy storage element 1 1 18 is further connected to VGA 1 1 10 and controls the gain of VGA 1 1 10 to scale the audio signal.

[0105] In one embodiment, an audio signal is received at VGA 1 1 10. VGA 1 1 10 scales the amplitude of the audio signal to produce a scaled audio signal, which is then directed to speaker 1 1 12 for reproduction for the user. The scaled audio signal is also received by analog

comparator 1 124, which compares the adjusted signal to threshold indicator 1 130. If the scaled audio signal is above threshold indicator 1 130, analog comparator 1 124 generates a control signal to decrease the resistance of transistor 1 122, allowing more current to flow from energy storage element 1 1 18 through transistor 1 122 to ground. If, however, the scaled audio signal is below threshold indicator 1 130, analog comparator 1 124 controls transistor 1 122 to decrease or turn off current flow through transistor 1 122, allowing less charge to escape from energy storage element 1 1 18 to ground 1 128. Thus, the charge recorded by energy storage element 1 1 18 is consumed at varying rates dependent on the decibel level at which the scaled audio signal is received by analog comparator 1 124 and dependent on the level at which the threshold indicator 1 130 is set.

[0106] Energy storage element 1 1 18 models the human ear in a manner similar to damage counter 1024 in FIG. 10. In particular, the charge held by energy storage element 1 1 18 can be used to model damage remaining before permanent damage is incurred. It is important to note that energy storage element 1 1 18 receives a charge from power source 1 1 16 when switch 1 120 is closed. Switch 1 120 is pulsed on and off by pulse generator 1 126 at a rate that provides a controlled charge/discharge rate for the energy storage element 1 18 that is selected to model the normal hearing repair rate of the human ear. Thus, by changing the pulse rate of pulse generator 1 126, the rate at which energy storage element 1 1 18 stores charge and discharges it can be varied to provide additional adaptability of system 1 100, such as to extend beyond a model of damage/repair profile of the human ear.

[0107] Thus, system 1 100 utilizes energy storage element 1 1 18 as an analog imitation of the regeneration and damage rate of the human ear, and system 1 100 can be configured to control the scaled analog signal based on damage sustained by the user's hearing over the period of time during which the user uses headphones 1 104 to prevent permanent hearing damage. Thus, the system 1 100 actively scales the amplitude or volume level of the audio signal as the user consumes the allowable dosage for the day as represented by the charge on energy storage element 1 1 18.

[0108] As the user listens to the audio signal at a level above the regeneration threshold, the amount of charge being drained from energy storage element 1 1 18 is increased above the level at which the charge is replenished, causing the overall charge on energy storage element 1 1 18 to decrease. As the charge decreases, energy storage element 1 1 18 will control VGA 1 1 10 to decrease the amplitude of the audio signal, such that the scaled audio signal will have a lower volume and thus a lower sound pressure level than the original audio signal, and the scaled audio signal will be delivered to the user through speaker 1 1 12. The gain of VGA 1 1 10 is directly related to the amount of charge remaining in energy storage element 1 1 18. By altering the relationship between charge on energy storage element 1 1 18 and the gain of VGA 1 1 10, different correction curves can be generated by system 1 100.

[0109] VGA 1 1 10 may eventually lower the audio signal's amplitude to a decibel level below that of threshold indicator 1 130, such as when the charge on energy storage element 1 1 18 reaches zero or the charge reaches a predetermined amount. For example, system 1 100 may reserve part of the repairable hearing damage that the user's ear can sustain for consumption by the user while not using system 1 100. Therefore the charge level at which VGA 1 1 10 reduces the audio signal's amplitude to a decibel level below that of threshold indicator 1 130 could be at a charge level representing an acoustic dosage of approximately 90% of the allowable daily allotment, leaving 10% of the repairable hearing damage.

[0110] The above-described system is only one possible analog embodiment, and other systems could be devised using additional analog comparators and/or resistors. For example by adding a second comparator between transistor 1 122 and analog comparator 1 124, system 1 120 could accommodate an acceptable safe level indicator and threshold indicator 1 130, where the acceptable safe level indicator is a sound pressure level where the user could listen to audio signals for a 24 hour period and only consume 1% of the allowable dosage (where the allowable dosage is the amount of exposure to acoustic signals that a user can experience before permanent hearing impairment occurs). In another example, multiple resistors or transistors could be utilized to provide a stepped function as described with respect to FIG. 10. In still another embodiment, the pulse generator 1 126 can be configured to operate with other circuitry to produce a ramp or step function and/or an analog-to-digital converter to control the gain of VGA 1 1 10 incrementally.

[0111] FIG. 12 is a graph 1200 illustrating an embodiment of a possible representative sound adjustment curve 1202, which can be generated to protect the user's hearing using the systems depicted in FIGs. 10 and 1 1. Graph 1200 depicts adjustment curve 1202 and threshold 1204. Threshold 1204 can be set to various sound pressure levels. In this embodiment, threshold 1204 is set to 40 decibels. In a particular example, threshold 1204 is selected as a safe acoustic level at or below which the user's hearing may regenerate or recover from temporary hearing impairment caused by exposure to acoustic signals.

[0112] Adjustment curve 1202 is generated when processor 1010 executes remediation instructions 1027. Adjustment curve 1202 is determined by a number of pre-programmed or user adjustable variables including, but not limited to, listening time, starting amplitude, and the current state of damage counter 1024. In this example, processor 1010 executes remediation instructions 1027 upon activation of personal sound device 1002 and calculates a continuous curve that would allow the user to listen to personal sound device 1002 for 20 hours continuously without damaging the user's hearing. In this embodiment, processor 1010 in conjunction with remediation instructions 1027 takes an active role in determining the amplitude of the sound generated by personal sound device 1002 over time, and adjustment curve 1202 depicts a continuous and gradual reduction of the amplitude of the acoustic signals over time. It should be understood that, by altering the variables, many different continues curves can be formed.

[0113] FIG. 13 is a flow diagram of an embodiment of a method 1300 of limiting hearing damage by controlling the systems of FIGs. 10 and 1 1. At 1302, an audio input is received from a media device. Proceeding to 304, the personal sound device (such as personal sound device 1002 or 1 104) determines the audio's sound pressure level. Advancing to 1306, if the sound pressure level is below a threshold, method 1300 advances to 1308 and the change in the hearing damage is recorded. In this case the hearing damage is increased. After the hearing damage change is recorded, method 1300 returns to 1302 and continues to receive the audio input from the media device.

[0114] If, however, at 1306 the sound pressure level exceeds the threshold, method 1300 advances to 1310 and, if the hearing damage is less than usable hearing dosage, the method advances to 1312 and the amplitude level of the output signal is adjusted based on remediation instructions. The usable hearing dosage is the amount of hearing damage that the user has sustained by using the headphone system. Thus the usable hearing dosage is a percentage of the damage threshold 1022 of FIG. 10 that method 1300 may consume. At 1310, if the hearing damage is greater than the usable hearing dosage, method 1300 proceeds to 1314 and the amplitude of the audio signal is adjusted to a level that is below the threshold. If, however, the hearing damage is less than the usable hearing dosage than method 1300 advances to 1312 and adjust the amplitude level based on the remediation instructions. The amplitude could be adjusted by the remediation instructions in a variety of ways and, in particular, in the manners described above with respect to FIG. 10 and 1 1.

[0115] Once method 1300 adjusts the amplitude either according to the remediation instructions or below the threshold, method 1300 advances to 1308 and records the change in the hearing damage. If the sound pressure level was above the threshold than the hearing damage sustained is decreased, but if the sound pressure level was above the threshold the hearing damage is increased. After the change in hearing damage is recorded, method 1300 returns to 1302 and the cycle begins again with another audio signal.

[0116] It should be appreciated that, while the above-discussion has focused on amplitude of the audio signals, the techniques and systems described above may also be used to adjust other audio parameters, such as tone, pitch, bass, and other parameters. To the extent that certain frequencies are determined to increase the rate of damage to the hearing, it may be useful to selectively adjust one or more acoustic parameters, including amplitude, pitch, tone, frequency, and other parameters, without substantially altering the content of the audio signal, thereby reducing the effects of prolonged exposure and (preferably) preventing permanent damage to the hearing of the user.

[0117] In the discussion of FIG. 1 , the hearing aid system 100 was indicated to be configured to determine which ear the hearing aid 102 is mounted to and to selectively enter an operating mode based on the determination. An example of a method of detecting the ear of the user is described below with respect to FIG. 14.

[0118] FIG. 14 is a flow diagram of an embodiment of a method 1400 of determining an operating mode of a hearing aid in response to detecting a proximity. At 1402 controller 128 receives instructions to detect a proximity. Proceeding to 1404, if front sensor proximity does not exceed a threshold, the method 1400 proceeds to 1406 and the hearing aid enters the off state. If the front sensor proximity exceeds the threshold at 1404, the method 1400 proceeds to 408 and the controller 128 compares a left sensor proximity to a threshold. At 1408, if the left sensor proximity exceeds the threshold, the method 1400 advances to 1410 and the hearing aid enters a right ear mode. If, at 1408, the left sensor proximity does not exceed the threshold, the method 1400 advances to 1412.

[01191 At 1412, if the right sensor proximity exceeds a threshold, the hearing aid enters a left ear mode. Otherwise, the method 400 proceeds to 406 and the hearing aid is turned off (or remains in an off-state or idle state).

[0120] Method 1400 describes one of many possible methods of utilizing proximity sensors to trigger state/mode changes in a hearing aid. It should be understood that the order in which the blocks of method 1400 are performed may vary. Additionally it is also understood that some blocks of method 1400 may be combined or removed, and that new blocks can be added without departing from the scope of the disclosure.

[0121] In conjunction with the systems of FIGS. 1-14, a hearing aid system is described that includes a portable electronic device (such as a portable media player, tablet computer, or a cell phone) or computing device, at least one hearing aid, and/or a power/music dongle. The hearing aid is configurable via a user interface presented on the portable electronic device. Further, the hearing aid can operate based on stored hearing aid profiles when the portable electronic device is not communicatively connected to the hearing aid. Further, a battery dongle is provided that can supply supplemental or recharge power to the hearing aid during operation and/or to supply audio data to the hearing aid.

[0122] The portable electronic device is a computing device configured to communicate with the hearing aid through a wireless communication channel and includes a memory configured to store a plurality of hearing aid profiles executable by a processor of the hearing aid to shape audio signals to compensate for a user's hearing deficiency. The portable electronic device further includes a circuit configured to receive a selection corresponding to at least one of the plurality hearing aid profiles and to selectively provide the one or more hearing aid profiles to the hearing aid in response to receiving the selection. Each of the hearing aid profiles has left sound shaping instructions and right sound shaping instructions that can be adjusted either independently or in combination by the portable computing device to generate a modified hearing aid profile. Each hearing aid profile may be modified manually by the user interacting with the user interface on the portable electronic device or automatically in response to detecting changes in the acoustic environments.

[0123] The computing device is configurable to communicate with the hearing aid through a wireless communication channel. The computing device including an input interface (such as a touch screen or keyboard) for receiving user input, a memory configured to store a plurality of instructions and hearing aid profiles, and a processor for executing the instructions to process the hearing aid profiles and generate signals to the hearing aid in response to receiving user inputs to activate, adjust, delete, or create a hearing aid profile. In some instances, the computing device may include a microphone and interactive voice response functionality for receiving audio inputs from a user.

[0124] In one aspect, a computer readable medium stores instructions, which can be executed by a processor of a computing device. When executed, the instructions cause the computing device to provide a graphical user interface including multiple user-selectable options to a display, to receive a user input corresponding to one of the selectable options, and to communicate the option corresponding to the user input to a hearing aid through a wireless communication channel. The instructions may also cause the graphical user interface to display a first set of user-selectable options for a first hearing aid and a second set of user-selectable options for a second hearing aid.

[0125] In a particular embodiment, a hearing aid includes a battery, an integrated circuit having multiple circuit components, and a power consumption monitor connected to the integrated circuit and configured to infer a charge stored by the battery based on the operating time of particular operations and based on an energy characterization table. The hearing aid may also include a recharge circuit configured to couple the battery to an external power source for recharging the battery. After charging, the hearing aid can provide a charge indicator to a power consumption monitor to update the stored charge for the battery. It should be understood from the description above that the power consumption monitor may be an analog circuit or a digital circuit (for example, including digital gates configured using RTL), or a processor connected to a memory. The memory may include a charge value (batter life) counter, operations time table, and/or an energy characterization table. The hearing aid may further be configured to

communicate the charge value and or a low battery warning to the user via the computing device, the speaker, an attached LED light, a display of the computing device, an audible alert through the speaker within the hearing aid, or any combination thereof. The energy characterization system in general includes the steps of receiving a signal to start an operation, recording the start time in the memory, recording the end time in the memory, and calculating a duration of the operation. The system may then infer energy used based on the values in the operations table, the energy characterization table, and the charge value counter.

[0126] A hearing aid with a casing is configured to fit behind either of the user's ears and includes at least one proximity sensor configured to generate a signal proportional to a proximity of the casing to an object, such as the user's ear or head. The hearing aid further includes a processor configured to select an operating mode from a plurality of operating modes in response to receiving the signal from the proximity sensor. The hearing aid case may include two proximity sensors. The first sensor can be configured to detect the proximity of the back of the user's ear (based on the sensors orientation and/or position relative to the housing of the hearing aid) and the second to detect a proximity of the user's head (based on its orientation and/or position on the housing). The casing may include a third proximity sensor opposite the second proximity sensor to detect the proximity of the user's head. By utilizing second and third proximity sensors, the hearing aid is able to determine an operational mode between the left ear and the right ear based on the detected proximity. In another embodiment, the hearing aid may include an ear tube connected to the casing at one end and an ear bud at the other. The ear bud may include a fourth proximity sensor configured to detect the ear bud's insertion into the user's ear canal. The hearing aid can utilize the proximity information to detect a change in the proximity and to mute or otherwise delay audio processing during a period of time around the change in proximity, and is thus able to reduce insertion feedback for the user by delaying the activation of the hearing aid until the proximity at the fourth sensor is detected relative to the ear canal (or until a period of time has elapsed after the proximity has stopped changing).. [0127] The hearing aid with multiple proximity sensors described above can also be utilized to monitor and control power modes of the hearing aid (such as power on and power off)- The hearing aid may be configured to enter a low power mode or sleep mode when the proximity is greater than a threshold proximity. The hearing aid may also be able to disable certain components (such as the speaker) when the fourth proximity is not detected or after the proximity exceeds a specified distance for a predetermined period of time.

[0128] A power dongle for a hearing aid includes a power source and a connection interface adapted to electrically couple to the hearing aid to provide a power supply to the hearing aid while the hearing aid is in use. The power dongle may include an internal power source to provide power to the hearing aid or a second connection interface to couple to a computing device for providing a power source from the computing device to the hearing aids. The power dongle may include a mechanical or magnetic connection interface for securing the dongle to the hearing aid. The internal power source may be rechargeable or a removable/replaceable battery and in some embodiments may includes a stack of batteries. The dongle may also be configured to provide an audio signal through the second connection interface from a computing device to the hearing aid.

[0129] One embodiment of the hearing aid includes a receptacle or interface configured to receive the power and/or audio signal from the dongle. In this embodiment, the hearing aid includes a battery in addition to other hearing aid circuitry. The receptacle may be configured to provide power to the battery to perform a recharge and to the hearing aid circuitry to operate the hearing aid. The hearing aid may also include logic configured to open and close switches, allowing the receptacle to selectively provide power to the battery, the hearing aid circuitry, or both simultaneously. This allows the hearing aid to be placed into a recharge mode, a power assist mode, a remote supply power mode, and a power assist/recharge mode.

[0130] A personal sound device or hearing aid with a processor and a memory is also disclosed. The memory stores remediation instructions and detection instructions. The processor isconfigured to process the audio signal according to the detection remediation instructions and to modulate the amplitude of the audio signal based on remediation instructions. The memory may also store regeneration instructions that, when executed by the processor, cause the processor to model a rate of repair of hearing by a human ear. Additionally, memory may store a damage threshold defining an amount of hearing damage a user may sustain before experiencing permanent hearing damage. The processor uses the damage threshold in conjunction with the remediation instructions to programmatically adjust the amplitude of the audio signal to prevent hearing damage. For example, the processor may adjust the amplitude of the audio signal along a curve or series of steps calculated based on an original amplitude of the audio signal and the remediation instructions.

[0131] A personal sound device or hearing aid with a variable gain amplifier receives an audio signal and performs a first adjustment to the amplitude of the audio signal. The variable gain amplifier is connected to an analog comparator including for receiving a threshold indicator and for comparing the adjusted audio signal to the threshold indicator. The variable gain amplifier generates a control signal when the modulated audio signal exceeds the threshold indicator. The personal sound device or hearing aid further includes an energy storage element including an output connected to the variable gain amplifier and configured to store a charge for controlling the gain applied by the variable gain amplifier. A transistor is connected to the energy storage element and to the analog comparator and is responsive to the control signal to allow current flow from the energy storage element to ground at a rate that is proportional to an amplitude of the adjusted audio signal. In one embodiment, the personal sound device further includes a power source and switch connected to the energy storage element and a pulse generator configured to generate pulses to control the switch to couple and decouple the power source to the energy storage element based on the pulses.

[0132] Although the present invention has been described with reference to preferred

embodiments, workers skilled in the art will recognize that changes may be made in form and detail without departing from the scope of the invention.

Claims

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:
1. A hearing aid comprising:
a casing configured to fit behind either ear of a user;
a proximity sensor associated with the casing and configured to generate a signal proportional to a proximity of the casing to an object; and
a controller coupled to the proximity sensor and configured to select an operating mode from a plurality of operating modes in response to the signal.
2. The hearing aid of claim 1 , wherein the casing comprises:
a first portion defining a curvature configured to fit against a side of the user's head when in a first position and to fit against at least a portion of an ear lobe of the user's ear when in a second position; and
wherein at least a portion of the proximity sensor is adjacent to the first portion.
3. The hearing aid of claim 2, wherein the casing further comprises:
a second portion defining a second curvature configured to fit against the user's ear; and a second proximity sensor associated with the second portion and configured to generate a
second signal proportional to a second proximity of the second portion of the casing relative to the user's ear.
4. The hearing aid of claim 3, wherein the controller is responsive to the second signal to adjust an operating state of the hearing aid.
5. The hearing aid of claim 3, wherein the casing further comprises:
a third portion substantially parallel to and on an opposing side of the casing relative to the first portion, the third portion configured to fit against the user's head when in the second position and to fit against a portion of the user's ear lobe when in the first position;
a third proximity sensor associated with third portion and configured to generate a third signal proportional to a third proximity of the casing relative to the user's head;
wherein the controller is responsive to the signal, the second signal, and the third signal to select the operating mode.
6. The hearing aid of claim 5, wherein, when the signal exceeds a threshold and the third signal is less than the threshold, the controller selects a right ear operating mode.
7. The hearing aid of claim 5 wherein, when the third signal exceeds a threshold and the signal is less than the threshold, the controller selects a left ear operating mode.
8. The hearing aid of claim 1 , further comprising:
an ear tube including a first end coupled to the casing and including a second end;
an ear bud coupled to the second end and configured to fit into an ear canal of the user's ear, the ear bud including a speaker coupled to circuitry within the casing and adapted to produce audible sound; and
a second proximity sensor associated with the ear bud and configured to generate a second signal proportional to a second proximity of the ear bud relative to the user's ear canal.
9. The hearing aid of claim 8, further comprising:
a delay circuit coupled to the controller and to the second proximity sensor, the delay circuit responsive to the second signal for providing a delay signal; and
a processor coupled to the controller and configured to shape audio signals into modulated audio signals for reproduction by the speaker based on the operational mode.
10. The hearing aid of claim 1 , wherein the processor controls circuitry within the casing to enter a low power mode when the signal is less than a threshold.
1 1. The hearing aid of claim 1 , wherein the first portion and the third portion of the casing are both configured to fit against the user's head; and
wherein the hearing aid can be worn by the user on either of the user's ears.
12. The hearing aid of claim 1 , further comprising:
a transceiver coupled to the controller configured to receive control signals from a computing device through a wireless communication channel; and wherein the controller is further configured to adjust configuration settings based on the control signals.
13. The hearing aid of claim 12, wherein the controller is further configured to adjust an operational mode of the hearing aid based on the signal and the control signals.
PCT/US2011/001077 2010-06-14 2011-06-14 Hearing aid system WO2011159349A1 (en)

Priority Applications (10)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US35467510P true 2010-06-14 2010-06-14
US61/354,675 2010-06-14
US36221110P true 2010-07-07 2010-07-07
US61/362,211 2010-07-07
US38834910P true 2010-09-30 2010-09-30
US61/388,349 2010-09-30
US41668810P true 2010-11-23 2010-11-23
US61/416,688 2010-11-23
US13/007,568 US8761421B2 (en) 2011-01-14 2011-01-14 Portable electronic device and computer-readable medium for remote hearing aid profile storage
US13/007,568 2011-01-14

Applications Claiming Priority (3)

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US13/708,009 US9071917B2 (en) 2010-06-14 2012-12-07 Hearing aid and hearing aid dual use dongle
US14/719,544 US9503825B2 (en) 2010-06-14 2015-05-22 Hearing aid and hearing aid dual use dongle
US15/333,110 US20170118564A1 (en) 2010-06-14 2016-10-24 Hearing aid and hearing aid dual use dongle

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US9071917B2 (en) 2015-06-30
US9503825B2 (en) 2016-11-22
US20150256946A1 (en) 2015-09-10
US20170118564A1 (en) 2017-04-27
US20140003641A1 (en) 2014-01-02

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